I am curious about the correlation between the pay and the hours worked. My current stereotypical view of lawyers is one who works 60 hours a week, makes 300k a year and has no time to do other things like coach his kid's soccer team. However, you have said that you are a rare case in that you work 35 hrs/week, but how does that affect your pay? I guess my curiosity is whether or not I could, with a ChemE undergrad and a diploma from a sweet law school, make bank (150k to 200k) while working 40-45 hour weeks?
Keep in mind that this post originated a long time ago. I'm now in a different employment situation so I have a bit more perspective and input. Currently I work at a firm that allows me to work as much or as little as I want (granted I don't think I could work 80 hours a week because there probably isn't enough to do). My pay is therefore variable and is directly tied to the number of hours that are billed to a client. It's a nice flexible arrangement for someone with a family but the unpredictability is not so good as my next paycheck is always a mystery. Back to your question, I don't think you could expect to make $150-200K working 40-45 hours a week, especially if you're a junior attorney. "Working" 40-45 hours a week is "billing" about 1200/hours a year (keep in mind attorneys don't get paid sick time, client development, continuing education, vacation, holidays or bathroom breaks as it all comes down to hours billed per year). To do rough math, let's say your starting billing rate is $175/hr and you get 1/3, that means your take home would be around $69K if you worked a 40-45 hour week. Some firms will give you a higher cut, many will require you bill at least 1500 hours. Your billing rate can be much higher but most clients will give you a budget and if you can't meet the budget, you're working for free so it all evens out in the long run. Billing rates are pretty meaningless for IP work these days IMO because most work is done on a pre-negotiated fee basis. It's not that you can't make great money practicing patent law, but it's not as "kick your feet up on the desk" as many believe. It's also a lot easier to make good money 5+ years in the business because you know what you're doing and are more efficient. It's also easier to make money as well when you're working for your own clients and only have to get their feedback vs. also the feedback of a senior partner (i.e. more work available for you bill/collect).